Natural Jif Creamy Peanut Butter Spread

By: J. M. Smucker Company

I Paid: $2.34 for an 18-ounce jar (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4stars

Marketing: 1stars

In what may be one of the most poorly executed marketing maneuvers since the launch of New Coke, Jif has rolled out a “Natural” variety of peanut butter without bothering to explain what “Natural” actually means. The Jif website doesn’t list the product, or carry an explanatory press release. (The site does, however, assure consumers that Jif brand peanut butter was not part of the recent salmonella recall.) Natural Jif’s packaging touts no specific claims beyond “no preservatives” and “contains 90% peanuts,” which is simply in accordance with general standards for U.S. peanut butter. The FAQ section of Jif’s website even scoffs at the idea of there being any important difference between regular and natural peanut butter.

If you stare at the labels, however, you can pick up the following differences between Natural Jif and Regular Jif Creamy:

• Natural Jif has 10 more calories from fat per 2-tablespoon serving.

• Natural Jif has half the sodium.

• Natural Jif has the same overall number of carbs, and 1 gram less of protein.

• Natural Jif uses palm oil instead of partially and fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, and lacks the mono- and diglycerides (blending agents).

There are bigger differences in taste. Natural Jif lacks the overly sweet, almost candylike flavor that makes its conventional cousin so difficult to use in the kitchen of a functional adult. It’s still a pleasant, creamy, sweet butter, but the peanut flavor predominates, and the sugar is a tasteful afterthought. For everyday cooking and eating, this isn’t a bad choice.

Rosangel Hibiscus-Infused Reposado Tequila

By: Gran Centenario

I Paid: $35.99 for a 750-milliliter bottle (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 3stars

Marketing: 4stars

Whenever you infuse a liquor, you face one of the most central and vexing challenges in the world of drink: Infuse too little, and you’ve denied your consumers the special taste they were looking for; infuse too much, and you overwhelm anything the liquor is mixed with and/or the taster’s palate.

So how did Gran Centenario do with its new Rosangel, a hibiscus-infused 100 percent highland blue agave reposado tequila? On the color front, very nicely: It’s an ethereal orangy pink, and looks like it would be sheer heaven in a frilly mixed cocktail. But a good whiff foreshadows trouble: You can pick up agave, but the hibiscus is nearly undetectable. Take a sip, and you get a bit of floral flavor, but it’s lacking the tart punch you typically expect from hibiscus.

None of this means Rosangel is unpleasant to drink. It’s a wonderful, well-balanced tequila, and successful on its own merits. But the idea that you’re going to give a firm twist or even a pronounced hibiscus undertone to a mixed drink with Rosangel is optimistic. If it’s a choice between buying Rosangel and Gran Centenario’s classic reposado, just ask yourself: How much do I like the color pink?

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